Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cookies that bite back

I do a lot of research on the computer.

Depending on the client, or the story I’m writing, my search terms can range from medical ailments and computer scams to art projects and fast food. While on the phone with aging relations, I have searched for senior services, HurryCanes, and devices to make everyday living easier.

The downside of my wide-ranging searches? Cookies. Dozens and dozens of tracking cookies deposited on my computer daily. The outcome is visible and immediate, with age-inappropriate, totally off-target, and often gross ads popping up on webpages. Even with ad blockers engaged.

Thankfully, I don’t need diapers, either for babies or the elderly. I’m not in the market for online dating, reverse mortgages, or satellite TV. And while I have no affinity for belly fat, I’m not interested in finding the secret cure. For awhile I was opening new pages with hesitation, ready to shield my eyes from goopy fried-egg ads for skin care or unappetizing photos of the latest miracle foods. Then I got tough.

I searched for ways to block tracking cookies and followed all the tips. That slowed the deluge, but didn’t stop it. I began to selectively delete cookies from my browsers. While that had incremental value, it was a bothersome task.

The technology used by ad re-targeting campaigns is just too good (which means it’s too bad for me). Re-targeting is billed as “a second chance to engage visitors with ads” after they’ve left a site. Me? I don’t need re-targeting. If I want to buy something, I know how to get back to the source; bombarding me with ads on other sites is just annoying…and creepy.

The best progress I’ve made on my cookie diet is using the DuckDuckGo search engine, which allows you to search anonymously. 

The site also links to:
  •, which is a worthwhile (and scary) read about the extensive trail of cookie crumbs that result from Google searches – and the implications
  •, a resource for tools to stop getting tracked in your browser
  •, a tool to escape the filter bubble and see a broader range of search results
  •, an explanation about the flaws of a browser’s Do Not Track setting
It’s not that I’m paranoid about being tracked. I just don’t need to be reminded about where I’ve been.

With real cookies, I'm a clean plate girl. With tracking cookies, I'm more of a clean slate girl.

I want every day on the Internet to be a brand new adventure.

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